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Oil slightly higher after mixed economic reports

NEW YORK (AP) -- The price of oil rose Monday after a strong durable goods report in the U.S.

Demand for long-lasting manufactured goods rose sharply in December with gains in volatile aircraft orders, the Commerce Department said. But the number of pending home sales fell last month after hitting a 2 { year high in November.

Benchmark oil rose 56 cents to finish at $96.44 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

It's a big week for U.S. economic indicators. In addition to Monday's data, the government will release reports on weekly jobless claims, unemployment and fourth-quarter growth. And the Federal Reserve's policy committee holds a two-day meeting that concludes on Wednesday.

At the pump, the average price for a gallon of gas rose over the weekend to $3.35, the highest level since the second week of December.

Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, rose 20 cents to end at $113.48 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex:

_ Wholesale gasoline rose 6 cents to finish at $2.94 per gallon.

_ Natural gas fell 16 cents to end at $3.29 per 1,000 cubic feet.

_ Heating oil rose about half a cent to finish at $3.06 a gallon.

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Pamela Sampson in Bangkok and Pablo Gorondi in Budapest contributed to this report.

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